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Wed 20 Feb 2008 12:52 AM

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Iraq agrees $5bn Boeing deal

State carrier boosts fleet by 40 planes and plans host of new international routes from Baghdad.

Iraq said on Tuesday it had agreed to buy 40 new aircraft from US plane maker Boeing and six from Canada's Bombardier for state-run Iraqi Airways in a deal worth up to $5 billion.

"A ministerial committee was formed and has agreed to buy 40 planes from Boeing, and four other used ones from Boeing and six new planes from Bombardier," Bangeen Riqani, deputy minister of transport, told newswire Reuters.

An earlier government statement had said Iraq would buy the 40 Boeing jets and had agreed an option for 10 more. The Boeing jets are due for delivery in 2015, and the Canadian aircraft are due this year and in 2009, Riqani said.

No details on the type of aircraft were immediately available.

Government newspaper Al-Sabah said on its website a number of new routes would open from Baghdad to Arab countries and other world capitals.

“We will reopen routes from Baghdad to London, Frankfurt, Karachi and Manama” it quoted Riqani as saying.

Riqani said in December majority stakes in three Iraqi Airways units would be sold this year to private investors to raise $100 million.

The government would sell stakes of between 60 and 65% in the carrier’s ground handling, maintenance and catering units, the minister told Meed.

Iraq's national carrier grounded its planes in the early 1990s due to UN sanctions, and much of the carrier's fleet and assets were destroyed during the 2003 US-led war and in subsequent looting.

The airline resumed international flights in 2004 and now operates to Amman, Cairo, Damascus, Beirut and Dubai. It currently owns just two aircraft and leases a limited number of other planes.

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